Cats in good mindset after setback to Vols, look ahead to NCAA tourney
Published 10:09 am Sunday, March 13, 2022
TAMPA, Fla. (KT) — Kentucky won’t know its next postseason destination until Sunday, but the Wildcats are in a good frame of mind after splitting two games in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The No. 5 Wildcats (26-7) defeated Vanderbilt in the tournament quarterfinals before dropping a 69-62 loss to Tennessee Saturday in the semifinals. Following the loss to the Volunteers, Kentucky players were in a good frame of mind and looking forward to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats are projected to be a No. 2 seed and will be making their first appearance in the Big Dance in two years. The 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic and Kentucky failed to make the field last year after finishing with a 9-16 record.
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Kentucky forward and leading scorer and rebounder Oscar Tshiebwe agreed.
“I think we just have to stay focused and locked in, be ready for the next tournament,” he said. “I’m pretty confident with my teammates, with everything. This was kind of an off day for us. We didn’t really make a shot. We still have our confidence, and we’re going to be ready next week.”
Like many analysts, Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks the Wildcats will be a No. 2 seed when the brackets for the 68-team field are revealed Sunday night.
“(We will) probably be a two, maybe a three,” he said. “Who knows? I’m not in the room, but we’ll see. My guess is it will be a very hard path because it always is.”
The Kentucky coach added that he thinks Auburn, which lost to Texas A&M in the conference quarterfinals on Friday, remains on the “one seed line” despite the early exit from the tourney.
“You know what, Tennessee has played so well, but they say they (selection committee) don’t do that anymore — your last 10 (games). They look at your body of work, you know, who you beat, your quad ones and all the other stuff they go with. I just wish they did some eye test, like watch. Forget about numbers. Do you know basketball? Watch the games.
The league will likely land six teams — Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama — in the field, but Calipari thinks more should be given consideration.
“This league has done some good stuff, and now let’s see what happens in the postseason,” he said. “I’m hoping seven, maybe eight teams get in. And if that’s the case, the way you judge a league is what’s their record in the NCAA tournament? If half your teams are three-quarters losing the first game, it kind of tells you that maybe you weren’t what everybody said. I have a lot of confidence in these teams.”
Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytodaycom and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.